Joanne Kurtzberg Chosen To Lead New Cord Blood Association

Issued: March 3, 2015

Cord Blood OfficersJoanne Kurtzberg, MD, director of the Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, Durham, N.C., has been chosen to be the first president of the new Cord Blood Association. The international nonprofit organization promotes public and private banking and the use of umbilical cord blood and related tissues for disease treatment and regenerative therapies.

The election of officers occurred at the first meeting of the Board of Directors in late February. The board members spent two days working on organizational programs and strategic planning.

Joanne Kurtzberg CBA President

Others elected to office were:
Vice president – Geoffrey Crouse, MBA/MPH, Chief Executive Officer, Cord Blood Registry, San Francisco
Secretary – Sue Armitage, BS, Assistant Director, MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank, Houston
Treasurer – Kenneth Giacin, MS, MBA, Vice Chairman and Director, StemCyte International, Covina, Calif.

The association’s members are public and private banks and individuals within and served by the cord blood community. Its 13-member board of directors has a “tripartite” membership, as required in the association’s bylaws. Four seats are for representatives of public banks, four for private or family banks, and five from the banking community at large. The at-large directors may be research investigators, transplant clinicians, patients, parents, obstetricians, pediatricians, nurses, midwives, vendors, health policy experts or regulatory officials.

Dr. Kurtzberg, who received her medical degree at New York Medical College, has been active in the field of cord blood transplantation and banking from its inception. The first umbilical cord blood transplant patient, a 5-year-old boy with Fanconi Anemia who received the transplant from an HLA-matched sibling, was her patient when she was a junior attending physician in pediatric hematology/oncology at Duke University Medical Center. She and others arranged for the collection of the sibling’s cord blood and referred the child for transplant to a team led by Eliane Gluckman, MD, in Paris. Dr. Kurtzberg has continued to care for that patient, who survives today 26 years later.

She founded the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Duke University Medical Center in 1990, where cord blood transplants have been a special focus. Her team at Duke performed the world’s first unrelated cord blood transplant in 1993 using a cord blood unit from the public cord blood bank established by Pablo Rubinstein, MD, at the New York Blood Center. She established a public unrelated cord blood bank, The Carolinas Cord Blood Bank, at Duke University in 1997, with the support of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. The bank currently has an inventory of nearly 30,000 high-quality cord blood units and has distributed more than 2,200 units for transplantation over the past 15 years.

Dr. Kurtzberg also has pioneered the use of unrelated donor cord blood transplantation to treat patients with inherited metabolic diseases, and has been a principal investigator or co-investigator on two national multi-center prospective trials testing the safety and efficacy of unrelated umbilical cord blood transplant in children with hematological malignancies. She has served on the Advisory Council for Blood Stem Cell Transplantation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as several panels of the FDA, AABB and other agencies creating and modifying standards and regulations for cord blood banking. She has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) and served for multiple years on its standards committees.

Most recently Dr. Kurtzberg has been conducting clinical trials to test whether autologous and allogeneic cord blood can help in brain repair after various kinds of brain injuries in patients with stroke, cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and autism.

Other members of the founding Board of Directors of the CBA are:

  • David Blackett, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy, PerkinElmer ViaCord, Waltham, Mass. 
  • Haywood Brown, MD, Chair, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. 
  • Colleen Delaney, MD, MSc, Director, Program in Cord Blood Research and Transplantation, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle
  • Arthur Flatau, PhD, Patient Advocate, Bone Marrow Transplant Survivor, Austin, Texas
  • Prof. Gesine Koegler, PhD, Director, Jose Carreras Cord Blood Bank and GMP Facility, University of Duesseldorf Medical Center, Duesseldorf, Germany
  • Richard L. Lockie, MBA, President & CEO, Insception Biosciences Inc., Toronto
  • Aby J. Mathew, PhD, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, BioLife Solutions, Inc., Bothell, Wash.
  • Beth H. Shaz, MD, Chief Medical Officer & Senior Vice President, New York Blood Center, New York
  • Mahendra Rao, MBBS, PhD, Vice President for Regenerative Medicine, New York Stem Cell Foundation, New York

Alan Leahigh, former executive director of the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation, is serving as managing director for the new association.